Book-It Repertory Theatre to Present JESUS' SON November 6-24
Book-It Repertory Theatre returns this November to the Circumbendibus series that was introduced last fall, presenting an expanded adaptation of last year's inaugural production, Jesus' Son adapted by Jeff Schwager from Denis Johnson's stories.
The Circumbendibus series was created as a way for Book-It, a nonprofit theatre company dedicated to creating quality stage adaptations of full-length novels, to expand its reach into new territories of literature, including shorter works, blogs, book excerpts, non-fiction pieces, and even twitter feeds. It also let Book-It move away from its main stage to locations that enhanced each performance in a site-specific way. This year, for example, Jesus' Son will be held at West of Lenin in Fremont, and will be staged in such a way that patrons feel as if they are walking into a bar rather than a theatre. The word "circumbendibus" is defined as a "roundabout route or process," and Book-It hopes that this detour from the main stage will engage audiences in new and exciting ways.
The production is adapted from Denis Johnson's cult work about dreamers, addicts, and lost souls, and will be directed by Josh Aaseng, who directed the show last year with great popularity and success. Aaseng describes the story as one of memory and transformation. The show's main character, he explains, is in search of "a meaningful way to connect with people around him, but is hampered by his addictions. We get to see him change course." Johnson's poetic and fractured prose, inspired largely by his own life of addiction before becoming sober and later becoming a wildly successful poet and author, focuses on the idea of brokenness and redemption, which Aaseng aims to capture in the performance.
Adapter Jeff Schwager (a Seattle writer and editor) first read Jesus' Son years ago and recalls that it hit him "with the force of a 16-ton semi truck." Schwager later interviewed Denis Johnson for the publication
he wrote for in 1991; Johnson said of the Jesus' Son stories at that time, "Some of them are almost entirely autobiographical. Originally, I wasn't even going to change the names. I wasn't really planning to publish them. They were just things I was experimenting with. ... They were just things that happened to me." Schwager and Aaseng worked together on the October 2012 inaugural outing of the adaptation, this new version contains more of the stories more completely.
Scenic Designer Catherine Cornell feels that the West of Lenin venue is a perfect fit for the production's more thematic elements. The space has been transformed through the "abstract installation of a dive bar," which hosts both the audience and the cast. "All of the action takes place in, around, or as a result of the
bar," she says. "The bar world is never far away." In many ways, this arrangement turns the production into less of a play and more of an experiential piece of art, in which the audience must be thrown out of their world at times by physically accommodating the world of the performance. Thematically, the set is also focused on "turning what's
broken into an art installation," playing with light and shadow though window panes and shards of broken glass. Cornell is partnering with Lighting Designer Kent Cubbage and Sound Designer Nathan Wade and Costume Designer Jocelyn Fowler.
Jesus' Son plays November 6 - 24 at West of Lenin. Tickets to this intimate, immersive performance, which seats only 85, will cost $22, and are on sale now. All performances are at 7:30pm. They can be purchased by calling 206-216-0833 or visiting www.book-it.org.